‘There are many pretty towns and villages the length and breadth of Scotland’s beautiful west coast, which are worth visiting on a road trip…’
The west coast has always been a popular area with visitors who are daring enough to brave the Rest and Be Thankful Road. From here, you can explore the Kintyre peninsula, hop a ferry to the Inner Hebrides and walk or cycle the Kintyre Way. Alternatively, simply to drive along the endlessly winding coastal route down to Southend, Campbeltown or Machrihanish.
Rest and Be Thankful is at the highest point of the A83 and 803ft above sea level. The road winds between Glen Croe and Glen Kinglas and offers some stunning views of the valley. It’s not uncommon for the road to be impassable during bad weather. I’ve driven it on too many occasions to recall while working for VisitScotland. However, once over it, the west coast towns and villages down the coast are worth the trip.
My personal favourites for spending time are Inveraray, Tarbert and Machrihanish, which run from north to south.
Inveraray is famous for its Castle, Jail and as the docking point for the Vital Spark ship. This was the setting for a popular comedy programme of the same name. This will probably be entirely unfamiliar to if you’re not Scottish, but we loved it.
On the way into Inveraray, as you drive across the old bridge, you can’t help but be drawn by the view of the town and harbour. Unfortunately, a view of the Castle is on the opposite side and it’s difficult to choose what to look at first.
Parking is in a pay and display car park in the centre of town, just next to the harbour. Alternatively, there’s another car park on the main street. I’m not one for reverse parking…or any kind of parking for that matter, so I tend to stick to the P&D for reasons of personal and public safety.
The first time I stayed in Tarbert for work, I had a bedroom with a view out across the water. I spent an inordinate amount of time watching the CalMac ferry dropping off and picking up passengers. Tarbert, like Inverary, is in a beautiful setting. Its harbour is filled with anchored boats, gently floating on the water. There are some great walks around the town that offer the chance to make the most of the scenic views.
Tarbert is famous for its herring fishing and is the gateway for access to the Inner Hebrides and Mull of Kintyre. The town sits between East Loch Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert, which are inlets of Loch Fyne. Like Inveraray, Tarbert also has a Castle; although the two couldn’t be more opposite in look. While Inverary is grand and imposing, Tarbert’s is pretty much a ruin. However, taking the time to climb the steps and wander across the hill is well worth it for the views alone.
Just a few miles out of the town lies the impressive Stonefield Castle Hotel, which boasts 60 acres of manicured gardens, famous for their impressive array of Himalayan Rhododendrons and other exotic and rare shrubs.
Mach is a small village near the very northern tip of the Mull of Kintyre, famous for its quality links golf courses. In 1905, a 400ft mast was built on Machrihanish Beach, which was used to make the very first radio transmission across the Atlantic. On January 1st 1906, messages were sent and received between Machrihanish and Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Not a bad claim to fame for such a little town.
The beach in the town runs for 5 miles and is beautifully clean with sparkling blue waters. This makes the location one of Scotland’s most popular surfing destinations.
Visitors are also fond of the purpose built wildlife reserve at Uisaed Point. The all-weather viewing area allows for year round sea watching and spotting Scotland’s cutest beasties. These include seals and otters. Also: watch out for the famous west coast feral goats. They’re not that friendly, although pretty interesting to watch from a safe distance.
What are your favourite places on Scotland’s beautiful west coast?